Farmers use drones and data to boost crop yields

August. 13, 2015 Camilla Cornell Special to The Globe and Mail

Drones have long been used for military purposes, but Nova Scotia-based start-up Sky Squirrel Technologies Inc. has found a more peaceful use for the technology.

Sky Squirrel deploys small drones equipped with infrared cameras to cruise the skies over vineyards, sending back images that help growers monitor for moisture level, disease, rot, insect damage and general crop health – all things that contribute to the quality of the grapes and the resulting wine.

In the past, farmers would have had to walk their fields, taking samples back to send off to the lab. “If you have hundreds of acres, that is just not feasible,” says Richard van der Put, the Swiss-born co-founder and chief technology officer for Sky Squirrel.

In comparison, the company’s drone technology takes as many as 500 images during a single flight. “Our clients send the images to us via the cloud and we combine them into a map,” says van der Put. “Then we use a specialized image algorithm that allows us to assess crop health.” With the help of GPS positioning on their mobile devices, farmers, “can see where they are currently in the field and correlate that with the analysis” to pinpoint areas of concern, van der Put says.

The result: One client managed to reduce his water usage by a third. And the system has proven 97 per cent effective at detecting diseases like Flavesence Dorée – which mainly affects European vineyards. It also picks up leafroll – a disease that can devastate vineyards, wiping out 30 to 50 per cent of the crop.

Just six months into its first year of sales, Sky Squirrel had already achieved its one-year revenue target of $150,000, with clients in Chile, France, Spain, Romania, Switzerland and Canada.

And it is just one of the many Canadian tech companies that have taken a bead on the agricultural market, according to Doug Knox, vice-president of technology for Bioenterprise Corp., a non-profit business accelerator that specializes in agricultural technology. “The large corporate farm is here to stay,” says Knox. “And technology will increasingly be a driving force in terms of greater efficiency and production.”

Nonetheless, he contends, the agricultural market remains a challenge for young companies, mainly because it is so diverse and fractured. “Corn producers don’t have the same needs as wheat farmers or canola producers,” explains Knox. “The biggest barrier to entry to the agricultural market is creating awareness.”

Sky Squirrel overcame that barrier by targeting a specific niche (vineyards), with the intention of building out its solution to cover other crops in future. Similarly Resson Aerospace of Fredericton has teamed up with McCain foods to use drone technology to collect information that can help farmers reduce spraying and increase yields in potato fields.

Other companies have focused on technology with a wider application. Manitoba-based Farmers Edge Precision Consulting Inc. got its start in founder Wade Barnes’s basement 10 years ago with a general focus on precision agriculture and agronomics – basically using comprehensive data to boost farmers’ yields and lower their fertilizer usage. The company uses satellite images to identify where to plant, how much fertilizer to use and when and how much to irrigate – allowing farmers to increase yields and lower fertilizer and water usage (hence costs).

By 2014, it had been named one of Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies by Profit magazine and had received a significant equity investment by blue-chip Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB).

Food safety is another area of agriculture ripe for innovation, says Knox. He points to the “geofencing” software developed by Guelph-based startup Be Seen Be Safe with the goal of preventing the spread of diseases such as avian influenza (bird flu) and porcine epidemic virus from farm to farm.

Anyone with the Be Seen Be Safe app on their smartphone or tablet automatically triggers a signal the moment they enter a geofenced property. “When there’s a disease outbreak, we can basically hit a button and have it automatically show us where the people who’ve been on the potentially infectious farm came from and where they went,” says the company’s president and CEO Tim Nelson.

Mississauga, Ont.-based AbCelex Technologies Inc. has honed in on the burgeoning problem of antibiotic resistance in North America. Administering antibiotics to animals reduces food-borne pathogens that can cause illness, says president and CEO Saeid Babaei. But it also contributes to the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans.

Babaei and his partner Dr. Ali Riazi – both molecular biologists with a string of degrees – founded AbCelex in 2010. Their aim: to modify a specific type of antibody found in the guts of camels to create an antibiotic-free additive for agricultural feed products or water capable of guarding against dangerous bacteria like Campylobacter and Salmonella.

The pair’s research focused on ensuring the anti-microbial additive could withstand the heat generated during feed production, as well as the digestion process in a feed animal’s gut. And it had to be cost-effective. Says Babaei: “People won’t buy a chicken in the grocery store if the cost goes up from $7 to $20.”

In 2014, AbCelex got a vote of confidence in the form of a $2-million in Series A financing from Cultivian Sandbox, a leading U.S. venture fund specializing in agriculture and food. The company is currently engaged in field trials and expects its feed additive to be on the market by 2017. “And that’s a conservative estimate,” says Babaei.

SOURCE: THE GLOBE AND MAIL

BIOENTERPRISE Building Ag-Bio Based Businesses

November 27, 2014 |

Safer chicken, coming right up Each year, millions of North Americans fall ill after eating chicken, thanks to Campylobacter. The corkscrew-shaped bacteria infects more than half the raw poultry sold in the U.S., making it one of the biggest causes of foodborne illness in the Western world.

To tackle the problem, AbCelex’s Dr. Saeid Babaei turned to the camel families. These desert creatures have a unique type of antibody that is small, stable and cheap to produce. Babaei and his partner, Dr. Ali Riazi, set to work creating fragments of these antibodies — so-called “nanobodies” — targeted at Campylobacter.

They knew any cost-effective livestock treatment must be delivered in feed. In the course of the last three years, the pair successfully engineered nanobodies that can withstand the high temperatures used to process animal feed and the low pH and enzymes in the chicken’s digestive system.

That’s when they turned to Bioenterprise. We connected them to industry players, conducted market analyses, and put together product costings. “Bioenterprise came to the rescue,” says Babaei. “It was perfect timing.”

As a result, AbCelex struck a $2 million venture capital deal and attracted high-profile partners. If field trials prove successful, safer chicken could be just around the corner.

AbCelex Technologies Recognized as Best Growth Company by PwC Canada

November 21, 2014|
AbCelex Technologies Inc., a privately-held Canadian biotechnology company committed to the discovery and development of innovative solutions to advance the health of food animals and human food safety, announced today it has been recipient of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year Award as Best Growth Company.

The Entrepreneur of the Year award recognizes a company that has made great strides in the technology and advanced manufacturing sector within the last year. It will be awarded to the company that displays innovative business practices, development potential, and sound leadership. The awards presented by PwC, were handed out in three categories: Best Growth Company, Best Up-and-Coming Company, and Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

“HalTech’s goal is to support innovation in the Halton Region and we’re proud to honour three deserving companies that are at the forefront of technology” commented Haltech’s President, Stan Tsang. “The HalTech team was thoroughly impressed by the unique vision, sound leadership, and growth displayed by AbCelex Technologies Inc. By securing strategic funding and hiring top local talent they have solidified their place as an industry leader in the region and globally. We are confident that AbCelex will continue to be a shining example for life science innovation in the agri-business recognized by major global payers.”

“We are honored by this award as it represents our innovative approach to animal health and food safety and the dedication the AbCelex team has to making a difference in our food quality and safety,” said Dr. Saeid Babaei, President & CEO of AbCelex Technologies. “On behalf of our team, I wish to thank HalTech, PwC Canada and the selection committee who have recognized AbCelex’s accomplishments amongst Canadian success stories. We now have a solid foundation for growth and are ready to surge”.

About AbCelex Technologies Inc.

AbCelex Technologies Inc., is a privately-held Canadian biotechnology company committed to the discovery and development of innovative solutions to advance the health of food animals and improve human food safety. Employing advanced genetics and bioengineering techniques, AbCelex’s antibody based approach delivers antimicrobial solutions against various pathogens in several food animal species implicated in food-borne illnesses.
For more information, visit http://www.abcelex.com.

For further information, please contact:

Dr. Saeid Babaei
+1 (647) 494-8787
ir@abcelex.com

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From left to right: Stan Tsang, HalTech’s interim President,  Dr. Saeid Babaei, AbCelex CEO, and Teresa Giglia, Associate Partner at PwC.


AbCelex Technologies Secures Two Million in Series A Financing

TORONTO, ONTARIO, April 28, 2014 | AbCelex Technologies Inc., a privately-held Canadian biotechnology company committed to the discovery and development of innovative solutions to advance the health of food animals and human food safety, announced today it has closed on $2.0 million in Series A venture capital financing. The round was led by Cultivian Sandbox Ventures, LP, a Chicago-based fund with substantial expertise in agriculture and industrial biotechnology sectors.

The funds will support research and development of the company’s antibody-based approach to control pathogens in farm animals related to food-borne illnesses. With a growing world population, human food safety remains a pressing challenge. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. report that in the U.S. about 1 in 6, or 48 million, people get sick each year from contaminated food with 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths annually. Increasing health concerns over microbial resistance to antibiotics is driving government regulators to encourage alternatives to the regular use of antibiotics in farm animals.

AbCelex Technologies is pleased to welcome Ron Meeusen, Matthew Bell, and Paul Dick to the Company’s Board of Directors.

Ron Meeusen, PhD

Dr. Meeusen is a Managing Director of Cultivian Sandbox and co-founder and Managing Partner of Cultivian Ventures. Ron has over 30 years of experience in bringing new technologies and products to market. He has led research and development for major corporations in agricultural chemicals, field crop and vegetable genetics and breeding, animal health, novel foods and industrial materials. Ron has been a frequent speaker at conferences, a consultant to Federal policy on biotechnology regulatory issues, and active in industry trade groups. Prior to forming Cultivian Ron led the expansion of the biotechnology research and development program of Dow AgroSciences, and founded a successful biopharmaceutical company, Immuneworks, Inc. Ron represents Cultivian on the board of directors of Allylix, Proterro and Rivertop Renewables, and represents Cultivian Sandbox on the board of EnEvolv. He was also a member of the boards of directors of Divergence, Inc., which was sold to Monsanto Company in February of 2011, and of Aratana Therapeutics, which went public in 2013. Ron holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in plant cell biology.

Matthew Bell

Mr. Bell is a Principal of Cultivian Sandbox. Matt has over 9 years of technology commercialization and startup experience through his time with the University of Michigan’s Office of Technology Transfer where he was directly involved with the formation activities of over 20 startup companies. Prior to working at the University, Matt spent over 10 years in the Agriculture industry working for several production Ag supply companies including Growmark Incorporated where he was involved with their highly regarded precision farming services group. Matt has two degrees from the University of Illinois in Agronomy and a Masters of Business Administration and spent much of his early career as a professional grain farmer on the family farm that he grew up on in Central Illinois.

Paul Dick, DVM, MSc

Dr. Dick has 25 years of experience in the animal health industry including product development, regulatory affairs, business development, commercialization and general management. Roles in this sector have involved both large and medium multinationals and small start-up companies, in various capacities including COO of Naturagen Health Solutions within Elanco and CEO of Chemaphor involved in development of pharmaceuticals and veterinary natural health products. Dr. Dick has worked extensively with Health Canada’s Veterinary Drugs Directorate and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on numerous regulatory submissions and on departmental committees. He has served a number of organizations including as Director of the Canadian Animal Health Institute, President of the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association, and peer reviewer of NSERC strategic grants. He holds a veterinary degree with advanced training in infectious diseases and immunology.

“Backed by Cultivian Sandbox Ventures, we are well on our way to developing our lead anti-Campylobacter product for poultry. AbCelex’s antibody-based approach to controlling harmful pathogens is poised to have a dramatic impact on human food safety”, said Dr. Babaei, President & CEO of AbCelex Technologies. “Our innovative intellectual property platform combined with our proprietary genomics know-how allows us to deliver unique antimicrobial solutions against various pathogens in multiple farm animal species.”

“AbCelex has some exciting next-generation biotechnology to address some of the world’s pressing food safety challenges”, said Dr. Meeusen of Cultivian Sandbox. “The team at AbCelex has overcome the difficulties in delivering antimicrobial antibodies through oral administration to farm animals. Their feed additive approach will revolutionize the treatment of many food-borne pathogens improving food safety for all of mankind.”

About Cultivian Sandbox Ventures

Cultivian Sandbox is a venture capital firm focused on building next-generation disruptive agriculture and food technology companies capable of generating superior returns. As both experienced operating managers and venture investors we add value to portfolio companies both through our highly skilled team and extensive industry network. Our expertise in sourcing, evaluating, closing, managing and ultimately exiting successful equity investments positions us not only to build stronger businesses, but reshape industries. Additional information can be found at: http://www.cultiviansbx.com.

About AbCelex Technologies Inc.

AbCelex Technologies Inc., is a privately-held Canadian biotechnology company committed to the discovery and development of innovative solutions to advance the health of food animals and improve human food safety. Employing advanced genetics and bioengineering techniques, AbCelex’s antibody based approach delivers antimicrobial solutions against various pathogens in several food animal species implicated in food-borne illnesses. For more information, visit http://www.abcelex.com.

For further information, please contact:

Saeid Babaei
(647) 494-8787; ir@abcelex.com

Small nanobody drugs win big backing from pharma

camel

NATURE MEDICINE, NOVEMBER 2013|
Work that nanobody

“The field [of nanobodies] has matured a lot,” says Michiel Harmsen of Wageningen University and Research Center in the Netherlands, who has studied nanobodies for veterinary applications and in animal models of disease. “There was this initial thought that nanobodies were these weird half antibodies that wouldn’t be as effective as conventional antibodies, and the opposite has turned out to be true in many cases.”

At the same time as Ablynx’s nanobodies are showing their clinical potential, a handful of new pharma start-ups are hopping into the field. VHsquared, based in the UK, aims to develop single-domain antibodies for use in the gastrointestinal tract; Canada’s AbCelex Technologies is engineering small antibodies for diagnostic and environmental applications; and AgroSavfe, in Belgium, is applying nanobody technology to issues of food safety.

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AbCelex Technologies to Present at VetHealth Global 2013

TORONTO, ONTARIO June 10, 2012 | AbCelex Technologies to Present at VetHealth Global 2013
The International Animal Health and Nutrition Business Conference

– AbCelex Technologies announced today that the Company has been invited to present at the upcoming VetHealth Global 2013 conference to be held June 10-12 in Princess Edward Islands, Canada.

AbCelex has been selected for the Innovation in Animal Health and Nutrition as one of the top 10 emerging companies who are bringing exciting new technologies to the marketplace to present at this global conference.

VetHealth Global has consistently attracted a top drawer group of multinational companies and early stage businesses that come together in an informal setting to share new research and product concepts, identify investment opportunities, establish new sales channels, and discuss global animal health issues and trends. Delegates from North America, the U.K., China, Switzerland, Brazil, and Israel will participate in this year’s Conference.

Information on this event can be found on the conference website: https://www.vethealthglobal.com/emerging_companies_presentations.php

About VetHealth Global 2013

VetHealth Global is North America’s Premier International Animal Health & Nutrition Business Conference. Over 150 delegates from animal health and nutrition companies and support organizations from around the world will be in Prince Edward Island, Canada from June 10 – 12th for VetHealth Global 2013. Since 2007, VetHealth Global has received recognition for its stellar list of participating presenters, innovative emerging companies, business-to-business partnering program, and top-rated networking events. For more information, visit https://www.vethealthglobal.com.

About AbCelex Technologies Inc.

AbCelex Technologies Inc. is a privately owned Canadian biotechnology company committed to the discovery and development of innovative technologies for food safety applications. AbCelex’s current efforts are catered towards the development and commercialization of diagnostic and novel feed additive products for food animal health and food safety. For more information, visit www.abcelex.com.

Enquiries:

For further information, please contact: ir@abcelex.com

AbCelex Technologies to Participate at Two Upcoming Conferences

TORONTO, ONTARIO February 21, 2012 | AbCelex Technologies Inc. announced today that the Company will be participating at two upcoming international conferences:

  • 10th Annual BioPartnering North America, February 26-28, 2012, Vancouver Convention Centre;
  • GLOBE 2012, 12th Biennial Conference & Trade Fair on Business & the Environment, March 14–16, 2012, Vancouver Convention Centre.

About AbCelex Technologies Inc.

AbCelex Technologies Inc. is a privately owned Canadian biotechnology company committed to the discovery and development of innovative technologies for the diagnosis and treatment of variety of illnesses including cancer and infectious diseases. Our current efforts are catered towards the development and commercialization of high avidity single domain antibody (sdAb)-based diagnostic and food safety products to help patients worldwide with the best care possible. For more information, visit www.abcelex.com.

About BioPartnering North America (BPN)

BioPartnering North America 2012 (BPN) brings together senior executives from venture capital firms, major pharmaceutical companies, academic institutions and biotechnology companies of every size from mature to start-up. Now in its 10th year of partnering & dealmaking, BPN is focusing on the Pacific Rim. The strategy is to build on close ties with industry leaders in the Pacific Rim to create a unique opportunity for the U.S., Canada, and Europe to meet leading life science companies from Asia.

About Globe

Having been around since 1990, GLOBE is known as the quintessential gathering of global senior business and government representatives who meet to network and to advance the issues at the nexus of global business and sustainability agendas.

Enquiries:

For further information, please contact:
ir@abcelex.com

Research Collaboration and Commercialization Agreement with the Carton Group

TORONTO, ONTARIO February 2, 2012 | AbCelex Technologies Announces Research Collaboration and Commercialization Agreement with the Carton Group

– AbCelex Technologies Inc. is pleased to announce a strategic collaboration agreement with the Carton Group.
According to the signed agreement terms, AbCelex and Carton will jointly research and develop products effective against Campylobacter jejuni. AbCelex’s proprietary antibody-based platform technology can be a substantial solution worldwide to help prevent or significantly reduce food-borne illnesses.

“I am extremely pleased for this cooperation between AbCelex and Carton where we can contribute to the reduction of C. jejuni infections and other harmful microbes which continue to be pervasive throughout our food supply chain”, said Dr. Saeid Babaei, Chairman of the Board at AbCelex. “This collaboration will provide AbCelex with an opportunity to strengthen its presence in the food safety market in partnership with one of the world’s largest food companies in the rapidly growing and profitable segment”.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to join AbCelex research team in investigating innovative technologies to reduce Campylobacter infection in our food supply as consumers, now more than ever, are vigilant when it comes to food safety,” said Mr. Vincent Carton, Managing Director at Carton Group. “Adding innovative and effective products to our portfolio is an important aspect of our business strategy in ensuring that our birds are raised to the highest food safety and animal care standards. We are firmly behind the wheel in the drive for innovation and growth in our industry.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Campylobacter, primarily C. jejuni, is the third leading cause of death from foodborne infections in the world. In the United States alone, it affects nearly 2.4 million people, causes an estimated 58,000 illnesses and 200 deaths, and costs companies millions of dollars in recall losses in the U.S. each year. A substantial portion of the illnesses and deaths are associated with meat and poultry products.

A recent survey of Canadians conducted by BrandTrust found that food safety now ranks virtually equal to freshness when considering purchasing processed meats – 94% of respondents ranked food freshness as the most influential factor, with 92% also ranking food safety.

About AbCelex Technologies Inc.

AbCelex Technologies Inc. is a privately owned Canadian biotechnology company committed to the discovery and development of innovative technologies for the diagnosis and treatment of variety of illnesses including cancer and infectious diseases. Our current efforts are catered towards the development and commercialization of high avidity single domain antibody (sdAb)-based diagnostic and food safety products to help patients worldwide with the best care possible. The Company is looking at opportunities in the diagnostic market in addition to developing products for the animal health market that could help to prevent food borne infection at the animal source. For more information, visit www.abcelex.com.

About Carton Group

Carton Group with its Manor Farm brand is one of the oldest family companies in Ireland dating back to 1775 and now in its 8th generation. Today, Carton is Ireland’s largest integrated chicken processor, based in Shercock, Co Cavan, where it processes 800,000 birds per week and produces 130,000 tonnes of chicken feed a year. Carton employs over 650 people throughout the year and 750 during the summer months. In addition to this the company has 150 breeder, broiler and free-range farmers and gives indirect employment to many more throughout the 26 counties. The company recorded a turnover of €205 million in 2011 and the payroll costs came to €22 million.

About Campylobacter

Campylobacter is the cause of enteric infections that can be severe enough to cause death or serious neurological damage. It is a major public health issue with a considerable socio-economic impact. Foods are a significant risk factor for human campylobacteriosis, and the infectious dose seems to be very low. Poultry-based foods are assumed to be the primary source of campylobacteriosis, with the main routes of infection being the ingestion of inadequately cooked meat (primarily poultry) and cross-contamination.

Enquiries:

For further information, please contact:
Dr. Saeid Babaei
ir@abcelex.com